Changing of the guard: Seven top cyclists who have retired in 2022
Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and Tom Dumoulin have all called time on their careers this year
In 2022 there has been a changing of the guard at the top level of professional cycling.
Some of the biggest names in the sport have called time on their careers, passing over the torch to the likes of Remco Evenepoel, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar as they ride off into the sunset.
As well as the aforementioned trio, riders like Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel have taken the baton from Philippe Gilbert as being the riders to watch on the Classics scene.
This year multiple Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali has hung up his wheels after a final hurrah at Il Lombardia and former World Champion Alejandro Valverde has also retired after one final season.
Valverde’s retirement allows new names to shine in Spanish cycling. For many years, Spanish fans will have wondered when the next big home Vuelta win would come but with talents like Juan Ayuso and Carlos Rodriguez stepping into the Valverde shaped gap, that win may not be that far away.
We’ve put together a breakdown of seven riders who have retired from cycling's top level this year and an assessment of their legacy in the sport.
The Italian former Grand Tour winner and stage racer supreme announced at this year’s Giro d’Italia that he would be retiring at the end of 2022.
He leaves a legacy of being arguably the last of the great Italian stage racers, and his palmares comfortably backs up that argument. Three monument titles including two Il Lombardia victories and one Milan-San Remo as well as overall wins at Tirreno-Adriatico in 2012 and 2013 more than speak for themselves.
The Sicily-born rider is also a two-time Giro d’Italia winner and has seven individual stages to his name. Nibali also won the Tour de France in 2014 and took six individual stage victories at the French Grand Tour during his career.
Adding in his 2010 Vuelta a España victory to the equation makes him not only one of the last great Italian stage racers, but also one of the all time greatest riders in the sports history.
Few riders of his generation can match the prolific winning record of the “Shark of Messina”.
42-year-old Alejandro Valverde finally retired from the sport's top level with the 2022 Il Lombardia also being his final outing in the WorldTour. Valverde finished a more than respectable sixth in that final race behind winner Tadej Pogačar.
Valverde’s career has been stacked with a huge list of one day race victories including four Liège–Bastogne–Liège victories and five La Flèche Wallonne titles. As well as this the Spaniard is also the 2018 road world champion and won the Vuelta a España in 2009.
However, the 42-year-olds impressive palmares has a significant black spot which it is impossible to ignore. His involvement in the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
Valverde received a two-year doping ban in 2010 for his part in the affair and all of his results that year were annulled. Since his doping ban the cycling world has often struggled to look the other way when it came to the Spaniard achieving any further success.
As a result of this, his legacy in cycling is blemished by his doping offences.
Prior to the 2022 Tour of Britain, Richie Porte announced that the British week-long event would be his final racing outing.
In 2020 the Australian rider left Trek-Segafredo to join Ineos Grenadiers, a team he had previously raced for under the Team Sky name. A high point of Porte’s time at Ineos was his 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné victory.
Before making a return to the British team, Porte enjoyed a successful spell at Trek-Segafredo which saw him achieve his first ever Grand Tour podium finish. Porte was able to stay with a rampant Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič for much of the 2020 Tour de France meaning that he would eventually finish third overall.
Throughout the years, Porte’s exploits in the Grand Tour’s leave a more than respectable legacy at the sports top level that other Australian riders will look to emulate.
With the emergence of riders like Giro d'Italia winner Jai Hindley and Ineos Grenadiers' Luke Plapp, Australian cycling is in a comfortable place despite Porte's retirement.
40-year-old Gilbert retired from cycling after an illustrious career which has seen him win four of the five monuments and stages at all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
The Belgian rider was renowned as being one of the best puncheurs in the business and that was backed up with impressive wins at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders as well as the world title in 2012 in the Netherlands.
One of the main highlights of Gilbert’s career is undoubtedly the four victories he took at the Amstel Gold race in the Netherlands. His world title win came on a similar route to the Dutch one day race and as a result, the Cauberg climb in Holland will long be associated with his cycling exploits.
Gilbert recently announced that despite the rumours, he will not be taking over as manager of his final professional team Lotto Soudal in 2023.
Winning four of the five monuments is no mean feat. When you bring his Amstel-Gold victories into the discussion, it’s impossible to consider Gilbert as being anything other than one of the greatest one-day racers of all time.
German racer Lisa Brennauer retired in August after an impressive career which has seen the 34-year-old win both the individual and team time trial world titles on multiple occasions.
Brennauer also won the female German national time trial championship on five occasions with 2022 being her final victory. As well as this she also won the German national road title on four occasions. One of her biggest highlights was a gold medal at the rearranged 2020 Olympics in the women’s team pursuit, in which the German team set a new world record.
On the road the German won the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta race in 2019 and 2020.
Brennauer’s record is pretty incomparable in women’s German cycling, leaving her with a legacy as being arguably the best German female racer there has been to date.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin retired in August after a career which has seen him win the Giro d’Italia and multiple time trial titles.
As well as his accomplishments on the bike, one of Dumoulin’s biggest achievements was also opening up the conversation on mental health and wellbeing in cycling when he decided to take a break from the sport in 2021 after being “unhappy as a cyclist for a year”.
Several months later, Dumoulin capped his return to the sport with a silver medal in the men’s time trial at the 2020 Olympic games. He then announced that 2022 would be his final year with his last race being the World Championships in Wollongong, Australia.
During his long career Dumoulin won the Giro in 2017, as well as the Dutch national time trial championships on four separate occasions and his Olympic silver medal in Tokyo.
He’ll be remembered as a formidable Grand Tour rider who was also brave enough to publicly speak out about the psychological strain of elite competition.
During his long career, Alex Dowsett established a name for himself as being a top-level time trial specialist and one of the best that Great Britain has ever produced.
He is the record holder for the most British national time trial titles- which he won on six occasions and he also has two Giro d’Italia stage wins to his name which he took in 2013 and in 2020. He also held the official hour record in 2015.
Dowsett suffers from haemophilia, a condition which prevents your blood from clotting, and he set up a charity called ‘Little Bleeders’ with the intention of encouraging young people suffering with the condition to engage with sport.
The Essex-born rider leaves a legacy as not only being a top level athlete, but also one determined to give something back to the wider community not just focussing on cycling. Something which is of great importance and other top level athletes would do well to emulate on a more frequent basis.
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Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. Alongside his day job, prior to starting with the team, he wrote a variety of different pieces as a contributor to a cycling website, Casquettes and Bidons, which included interviews with up and coming British riders.
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